Each of the sports supported under this planning process Irish Sports Council's has a Performance Director in place who is responsible for devising and implementing the performance plan for their sport. The Performance Director is essentially the leader of their sports' elite programme.
The Performance Directors are the central channel through which the Institute assists sports and their athletes to get the very best out of their plans and accompanying investment.
In the case study below Nancy Chillingworth (Performance Director at Paralympics Ireland) reflects on her engagement with the Institute in system building for Paralympics Ireland.
Nancy can you tell us how in your sports, planning is used to improve performance?
The main way that we use the planning to improve performance is through making sure that we constantly check in on it. We spend a lot of time developing the plan with our sports targeting specifically what we believe will result in performance improvement. I think it’s important that you see the plan as a living document.
What process do you employ to develop the plan?
It has evolved a bit over the course of the planning process as the process has evolved as well. At the beginning it was very much using a number of group workshops with our sports. Now what we tend to do is have our first planning meeting with the lead in the sport, their head coach if they have one and their athlete’s representative as well as a representative from our sports science and medicine team, usually it is the chief medical officer but sometimes it could be somebody else. We sit down and start to look at the key performance factors for the sport.
Once this process is complete all the plans come back to me. I usually work back and forth a bit more really to look at developing that sports science and medicine plan as a one plan incorporating the needs of all the sports.
How is communication of the plans across the sports and support team achieved?
The communication stream is between me and the lead in that sport. In most instances it is the team manager and so communication happens between us. It varies across our sports because in some there is a head coach and in others there isn’t so when there is a head coach they are quite often included in that communication. We would have frequent meetings as a sports science and medicine team who then work directly with the sports which keeps the communication live and relevant to where each sport is at.
How does the process facilitate collaborative working?
One of the things that it serves is collaborative working which takes out a lot of the surprises. I would hope that when it comes to London that there shouldn’t be any major surprises in terms of issues arising because they are constantly been identified from a multidisciplinary perspective. We have the coaching, physiology, psychology, medicine, physiotherapy feeding into the process constantly and that way people bounce of each other. Somebody may say something that they have observed that may not mean something specific to them in terms of their area but it may trigger something for someone else.
How significant a part has the service team actually played in terms of what Paralympic Athletes are achieving?
I think they are integral to our success because they have evolved and so what it allows us to do, by running a centralised system, is to be far more efficient in terms of the output of the team. While there are six plans in the performance plan, they are really servicing eight or nine sports.
The output from that is immense. It also means that you have that continuity of care which I think is integral. This team are providing service to the athletes in their preparation, their qualification phase, also providing it on the ground at games time and in the follow on from the Games.
How does the service/coach relationship work in your sport?
We are in a situation where there are only head coaches in two sports, only one of whom is actually paid and so in the other sports there does tend to be a fair bit of flux in terms of coaches. A coach may come in having a really strong knowledge of Olympic sport but there are always going to be certain little idiosyncrasies to do with Paralympic athletes that may not be there in other sports. The coach knows exactly where to go to look for this information because the service team is there and has been in place dealing with the issues and it is an added resource to the coaches to have that there.
When you hit a problem with regard to execution, what process do you use to diagnose it?
I think that is the difficulty in managing a multi sport programme. It can be a real challenge when you’re not hands on with the sport. It is much harder to get in and really identify what is going on. That is where we use the expertise and experience of a multidisciplinary team. The sports science and medicine team are actively engaged out at training camps, at competitions and they report everything back to me this way solutions are constantly being discussed.
How adaptive does the plan and your team need to be, can you give an example?
I think they are interrelated. We see that as a key part of how we work and I would actually like to see more of it. I think we are still at a stage where we have to become far more questioning of what we do.
How have the coaches engaged with the process of planning?
Jim Laverty as head coach is an integral part to the swimming plan so while Dave Malone is the head of the programme he and Jim look at the planning together. While Dave looks at it from maybe a more strategic perspective Jim really looks at the nuts and bolts of what needs to be done and the technical components. A critical part of Jim’s job is to work out between now and London what all of these swimmers need to be doing to achieve their targets, from their times to their technique every two months between now and the games and at the games themselves. These are based on what his expectations are in terms of what their training is going to look like, where and when are they going to be tested, what their site programme is going to be like every single bit of it feeds in and that in a nutshell is the role of the coach lead actually.
How has presenting your plan in this format assisted in making the case to the ISC for your sport’s investment?
I think that it gives a much clearer picture and is a much stronger case, it is hard to argue with the evidence of performance we present. If you’re in a position where you’re able to demonstrate what your planning has done, where you are with your planning, what are the performance outputs are and if you can demonstrate that you are achieving those targets along the way I think it adds far more creditability. Back to top